Warning issued for Waitaki campers

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Visitors and holidaymakers to the Waitaki Valley and Mackenzie Basin are being warned to take care where they camp over the Christmas and New Year period due to the risk of rising water levels.

Environment Canterbury (ECan), Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy have issued the warning for Waitaki Lakes and the Waitaki River system below the Benmore Dam and Waitaki emergency services manager Chris Raine has also urged caution.

“If we get any nor’westery rain, they’ll have to release water from Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki,” Mr Raine said.

“They (campers) need to take precautions with campsites.”

Last summer, he said high water levels meant “quite a few people” had to be moved to higher ground.

A meeting is planned for later this week with police and other emergency services to prepare for possible rising water levels.

ECan spokesman Phil Lees said people were already camping around lake edges but they should be aware of the risks.

“If energy companies have to to spill water from the lakes, water levels downstream will rise very rapidly.

‚ÄúPeople could be lulled into a false sense of security because water levels in Lake Tekapo are currently low but could rise quickly, especially early in the New Year when remedial work on the Tekapo Canal begins.”

This work is scheduled to start on Tuesday, January 7.

Meridian Energy has also confirmed that water might have to be spilled from Lake Pukaki, while Genesis Energy said relining works on the Tekapo Canal would require a 10- week closure of the canal.

“While the level of Lake Tekapo will be lowered in anticipation of the canal closure, we expect the level will rise from natural inflows and surplus water from Lake Tekapo,” Genesis spokesperson Richard Gordon said.

“As a result water may be spilled into the Tekapo River during the summer months.

By CHRIS TOBIN